How Do I Decide What Content is Homepage-Worthy?

After chatting with several Marketing and Communications Directors at independent schools across the country over the last few months, I’ve gotten the impression that selecting homepage content is like an episode of Game of Thrones.

When a website gets a redesign, or there’s a plan to re-vamp the homepage content, every person from every department comes in ready to fight to earn their spot on the homepage. And from what I’ve heard, it can be pretty intense. From coaches and teachers to directors of advancement and heads of school, everyone has something they want to see front and center.

Let’s be real: not every piece of content is really homepage worthy. But having your co-workers — and maybe even your co-worker-friends — swarm your office with favors and ideas can be stressful.

So which content is the rightful heir to the throne?

Here are a few guidelines for choosing the right content that will be the most beneficial to your school and website visitors.

It serves a purpose for marketing.

There’s major disconnect between departments when it comes to defining the purpose of your homepage. Will it be used to market to prospective families, or share information with current families?

For most independent schools, the purpose should be to market to prospective families — like this image from Tampa Prep's new homepage.


Any content that doesn’t add to your school’s value proposition, brand or mission, it can surely go on a lower level page, or in a password-protected portal.

Further reading: Website Planning 101 – Marketing Vs. Communications

It can make your school money in some way.

Summer programs, annual fund pushes, and obviously an online application all deserve a place in the spotlight because they bring in funds your school depends on.


It’s visually appealing.

First impressions are 94% design-related. Content that enhances that design and first impression are essential to the success of your website. However, if the content that someone wishes to publish on the homepage doesn’t add value (or completely clashes with the design and layout) it’s okay to say “no.”

We love Delaware Country Christian's School News & Events mash up that displays important information in an organized and attractive layout.


It’s corresponds to what website visitors expect to see.

When a website visitor lands on your homepage, they expect to see certain content like photos of your school community, recent news events, links to apply online. When your homepage consists of content like that, it’s easy for them to navigate to their next step.


However, when your homepage is cluttered with content they didn’t expect to see there, like a lunch menu or summer reading list, it’s easy to become confused and be ready to leave — ultimately leaving you with some high bounce rates, and that’s the last thing you want!

Further reading: 3 Web Design Improvements to Lower Bounce Rates

It shakes things up.

Certain pieces of the content on your homepage should be crafted to be dynamic. Incorporating news sections, or featuring an “In the Spotlight” section will give you a place to always put new content. That way, during peak website traffic time, you can be sure that there’s always something new displaying on your homepage. We love this example from Greenwich Academy!



How do you decide which content goes on your homepage? Let us know in a comment below, or share your homepage story with us.

Share Your Story

Posted by mia.major in Best Practices, Marketing / Comm on Monday June 8
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3 Web Design Improvements to Lower Bounce Rates

From responsive designs and SEO to social media campaigns and online ads, you do everything you can to get prospects to your website from every device, social network and search engine. So, we know it can be pretty discouraging when you see bounce rates for top hit pages — like tuition, employment, athletics and even your homepage.

Let’s rewind and quickly define bounce rate: it’s the percentage of visitors who come to your website and then navigate away after only visiting one page.

Bounce Rate

Of course, someone can come to your website, find an answer they’re looking for —like a phone number, due date for an application they already have in their hands — and then leave.

But what about the prospects that visit your site, and then leave just because they’re confused, unimpressed or bored?

There are three key reasons your pages could have high bounce rates.

1. They expected to find something different. In this case, the problem is typically an ad you are running or a keyword you are targeting. The two pieces don’t fit perfectly together in your website visitor’s mind.

2. Your website falls below their expectations, visually. Today’s users have higher expectations than ever before for page design, scannable content, load times and mobile friendliness. Each one of your pages should be carefully crafted with content so that you capture the user’s attention in just a few seconds.

3. You're offering a poor mobile experience, or no mobile experience at all.

In any case, you failed to meet the expectation of the person clicking the link. Here are three effective ways to lower bounce rates, no matter the reason they’re leaving.

1. Related Calls to Action

More importantly, calls to action that are related to the page’s content. For a user, nothing is more confusing than landing on a page and not knowing what the next step is.

For example, on a tuition page it would be smart to include a statistic about the amount of money given to students each year for financial aid with a call to action that guide the user to information about scholarships and grants. This way, even if your tuition is above their budget, they may be inclined to learn more about your school and peruse other pages, rather than just seeing a high price and heading back to Google.

The Archer School for Girls takes a clever approach in this Affording Archer section. By listing tuition and fees alongside the option to learn more about the school’s Flexible Tuition, there’s a greater chance someone who visits the tuition page will also visit the Flexible Tuition page out of interest.

Archer Calls to Action

Similarly, Western Reserve Academy gets an award for persistence. On each of their admissions pages, they list out three calls to action to visit campus, shadow a student, or meet student leaders. So, even if you’re just learning about WRA, it’s easy to take that next step.

Western Reserve Academy CTA

2. Infographics

We really love infographics — and so do your website users. They’re scannable; provide a bulk of information at a glance, and look infinitely better than writing out all your schools facts via text.

Infographics are like movie trailers. They say, here’s a preview everything we think that you need to know about this school. But like a movie trailer, it’s just a teaser, and their purpose is to persuade the user to want to learn more about the information presented. Hence, they’re likely to visit more website pages to learn about the information presented — and that’s goal.

Charlotte Country Day School combines infographics with calls to action on their homepage to direct users to lower level pages on their site — and we think that’s totally ingenious.

CCDS Infographic

3. Organized Lower Level Page Content

We commonly ask the question, do your lower level pages send prospects running? We have the tendency put so much effort into our homepages, that our lower level pages becoming secondary and then we find ourselves copying and pasting content and throwing in random photos just to fill the space and launch on time.

But your lower level pages are equally as important as your homepage. And even if they have the information your prospect is looking for, if they’re disorganized or unattractive, hitting the “back” button is more likely.

It’s the attention to detail, page hierarchy, choice of photos and of course, calls to action, that can make or break the experience for someone entering your site.

St. Joe’s Prep in Philadelphia’s lower level page hierarchy is ideal for both desktop and mobile users. With a clear headline, you know where you are on the site, but can also easily navigate to other pages. High quality photos and side banners with important information provide everything you need to know at a glance.

St. Joe's Organized Lower Level


Want to get quick insight at your page bounce rates and how they compare to schools like yours? Finalsite Dashboard provides key website metrics and benchmark comparison data for you to focus on the pages and content that may be affecting your conversions.

Learn More

Posted by mia.major in Search Engine Secrets, Best Practices on Friday June 5 at 10:24AM
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What It’s Like to Redesign on Finalsite Composer: The Inside Perspective

Okay, the secret is out: Finalsite.com is going to have a new look in couple of weeks, and we were starting to feel a little too giddy to keep it a secret much longer.

But before we officially launch (and as I procrastinate on that never-ending to-do-list) I wanted to take the time to reflect on the past six months, being one of the first sites to officially launch on our brand new CMS, Composer.


When our redesign was put into the works just about six months ago, we had two main goals in mind:

1. Improve our SEO; and

2. Give Composer a real run for its money.

We really wanted to push the platform to its limits, and see how far we could bend it before it would break.

Good news: it’s yet to break. So I’m thinking, Composer is really flexible.

So with that in mind, here are my thoughts on the past six months, as well as some advice for those who are considering the switch.

Thinking about Composer? Here’s What I Know 6 Months Later.

I don’t think it’s possible to get “too creative” on Composer.

Pushing Composer to its limits was one of our main goals of this redesign. I think we’ve asked Josh, our Front End Developer, to do just about everything imaginable to:

1. Make our website look totally awesome; and

2. Make maintaining that awesomeness as easy as possible.

Done and done.

Key takeaway: If you have some big dreams for your next website, Composer will help you achieve them.

Everything you might find hard to do is actually easy on Composer.

My HTML skills are about as robust as changing fonts and background colors, acquired in 2005 from editing my MySpace profile. But because of the way our coders set up website styles, all you’ll ever need is a cheat sheet of style names to put in where you want as you add pages. No HTML experience required.

Music to my ears. How about yours?

Needless to say, I was feeling pretty cool when I literally just had to type “panel panel - - slider light,” in a content element’s design tab to enable an awesome JavaScript effect on each page’s text and graphics.


This is too easy, I kept thinking, as I hit “Publish” and watched everything come to life.

Moving over old content and adding new content is a breeze.

If you’re making the switch from Page Manager to Composer, all the work you’ve done in your modules like News Manager, Calendar Manager and Athletics Manager isn’t going anywhere.

Phew!

During the redesign, you’ll have complete access to all your old pages in Page Manager so you can easily copy and paste the content you want to keep, and take the time to add new content.

Double phew!

An added benefit is that you’ll be able to re-imagine the way that data displays on your site when you redesign. And, not to mention, the new drag and drop navigation made my life infinitely easier as I began restructuring the order of pages, deleting ones, and adding new ones.

Improving SEO is easy even for a rookie.

Our Director of Marketing, Sean, is a total SEO and keyword pro. The rest of the Marketing team? Not so much. We usually depend on Red Abbott for those kinds of things. Regardless, tackling SEO in every nook and cranny of the site is something anyone can handle.


The best part is that everything is laid out so logically. In each page you can edit the Page Name and user-friendly vanity URL, which are the first page elements to get crawled by Googlebots. You can also add custom SEO titles, descriptions and keywords.

There isn’t much of a learning curve so getting everyone trained was easy.

I’m the first to admit that I thought toggling “Compose” on and off was actually a save button. So, I lost some content here and there and had to re-write it.


But that’s to be expected. Like with any new software, it takes some getting used to. Luckily, the learning curve is about as flat as the Great Plains — and we had the entire Marketing team (including our intern, who had never even seen the software before) uploading and editing content flawlessly in no time.

If you have a team of people that update and manage website content, training will be easy. Plus, all the modules look and work exactly the same — we’ve just enhanced the way they can be displayed on your site — so there’s going to be no learning curve there.

Now, here’s my overall advice to you.

During the redesign process, we were treated like any other custom web design client, and we received no special treatment from the Deployment team. (Really, I couldn’t even bribe them with Starbucks.)

For us, the redesign came at a pretty stressful time. We’re amidst a few new product launches and re-brands, as well as planning for FinalsiteU. So cramming in a website redesign with a six month hard deadline didn’t seem easy.

But let’s be real, there’s never really a good time to redesign. There’s always another project, work you need to catch up on, and a to-do list that has you busy until 2018.

But in that past six months I’ve realized that we have the most helpful, smart, and hardworking Deployment team that’s with you every step of the way to help in any way possible. And the website would not have been nearly as successful without them every step of the way.

With that in mind, here is my advice about going through a redesign.

Keep an organized to-do list, prioritize it, and assign tasks.

Writing content, designing graphics, making videos, taking pictures: our website redesign to-do list looks a lot like yours.

At the beginning of the project we made a site map, and from there, assigned pages of the site to different members of the team. We had weekly check-in meetings to check the status of content, and then our oh-so-talented in-house designers, Nicole and Melissa, got to work on creating graphics to go along with every last piece of content. We were in constant communication with one another to make sure there was never any overlap of work, either. It helped to keep everything moving forward and everyone on the same page.

Keep all your files in a cloud folder.

From my scribbled sketches I took pictures of on my iPhone to share with our designer and all new site content, to design files and branding materials, our team kept every tiny piece of our redesign in a folder on DropBox. Color coordinated and clearly labeled to match the structure of our navigation, we made all our files very easy to find. That way any member of the Marketing and Deployment teams could access it whatever they needed ease.

Never be afraid to ask other departments for help!

Sometimes we get the impression that since we work in Marketing — or for some of you at independent schools, IT or Admissions — that since we were tasked with a redesign, we have to go the journey alone.

It’s a false impression.

I promise you, if you reach out to other teams and colleagues — even if you’ve never exchanged a word — it’s amazing how quickly they’ll hop on board to help you out. A website is a tool that benefits everyone at your school because it’s goal is to fill seats. And if you’re not doing that…really, what else matters?

And everyone knows that.

For me, I have no idea what I would have done without our fabulous Client Success Team. Running into Tim McDonough’s office asking for help at 4:45 PM is becoming my forte.

Which school does a great job with Athletics Manager? Does anyone have any unique Portal uses? Can you just give me a list of people who will talk to me? Please? And can you do it…now?

The answer was always, “yes.”

Conclusion

Although the redesign is happening during a crazy busy time for us, Composer and the Deployment team made it possible. Josh and Amy were with the Marketing Team every step of the way, and we are so excited to share the final product in just a couple of weeks.

And the best part is that it is looking like we achieved both of our goals. (Plus, the new design will blow you away!)

Inspired by our story? Learn more about Composer today.

Posted by mia.major in Product News on Wednesday June 3 at 07:20AM
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3 Elements of a Successful Video

1.8 million words — that’s how much one minute of video is worth. It’s the equivalent of about 3,600 website pages, which can amount to about 150 days of writing.

More words, less time, more impact — right? Not necessarily. Video marketing, which is quickly becoming a top priority for schools across the globe, isn’t as simple as turning website text and photos into something that can get posted on YouTube. It’s about storytelling, capturing the essence of your school, and providing a genuine, inside look at life on campus that’s emotionally appealing to your target audience.

To get started in planning your school’s marketing video, here are three crucial elements to creating a successful marketing video.

1. Interviews that Tell a Story

While having your Head of School — or any member of your leadership team — narrate your school’s marketing video seems like the safe route because of their poise and presence, it isn’t always the most effective route because it tends to portray a lack of sincerity.

I mean, of course the Head of School thinks your school is the best. But what do your constituents have to say? And why?

Your video’s narration should be told by multiple individuals that can provide different angles of the story, as well as candid, personal experiences. Be diverse in your selection by choosing students who have excelled in different areas at your school — such as academics or athletics. If your school brings in a lot of students from around the world, you’ll want to include them too.

Think about it this way: whoever your target audience is, you’ll want to have someone they can relate to in the video.

Before you film your interviews, think about what you would like your interviewees to say, and ask the kinds of questions that would elicit the kind of answers your looking for. Keep in mind that deeper questions will reveal what makes your school unique.

For example, if you’d like to have a section of your video that covers “the academic experience,” ask interviewees “what was the best part about academics here?” and “can you describe a moment in your experience that changed your learning?”

2. Good Music Choices

Subtle yet crucial, effective marketing videos are supported by music that matches the pace and mood of the video. Music is something that cannot be overlooked or forgotten, because of the energy and emotion it adds to the video — and emotion is key!

Think of your marketing videos as an “emotional rollercoaster.” You have to draw the user in with something exciting, then slow it down with something that’s emotionally appealing or relatable, then bring back in some clips or a story that’s exciting, and so on. Music will serve as your transitions in this style of video. If you keep the same song throughout, those kind of ups and downs that keep the user interested, will be lost.

For example, when you’re showing clips of athletic games, use upbeat music. If a student is reflecting back on the meaning of their experience, choose music that moves at a slower pace.

Check out The Music Bed, SongFreedom and MelodyLoops for licensable music to use in your video. Most websites will offer discounted or free licenses for academic institutions.

3. Quick, Engaging Visuals

One major mistake most marketers can make is by keeping a clip playing in a video for too long. How long do I need to watch the student playing the flute to really understand they are playing the flute?

Quick, engaging visuals keep the viewer interested because they are seeing something new every few seconds. A general rule of thumb is that each video clip you have shouldn’t last more than five seconds unless it’s showing something extremely valuable, or you can’t really understand what’s happening unless something is shown for longer.

I know what you’re thinking — only five seconds?! That means in a three-minute marketing video has an average 36 unique video clips, which might seem completely impossible if you’re doing this on your own. But it’s rather easy.

My most important word of advice: overshoot, overshoot, and overshoot some more. You can never have too much video footage.

Make a list of events you’d like to include in your video, as well as elements of your campus that make it unique — location, classroom experience, specialty programs — you’ll be amazed how quickly you think of more than 36 5-second clips you can come up with. Getting some basics, like students walking around campus or sitting in the classroom, will provide great filler content to lean on for safety.

Further Reading:

Design Spotlight: 5 Ways to Start Using Video on Your Website

What We Can Learn From Berkshire School’s Admissions Video

The Oakridge Schools “I am Oakridge” Video Series is a Home Run

Posted by mia.major in Best in Class, Marketing / Comm on Monday June 1 at 09:54AM
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Transform Your Social Media Marketing With These Tools

Facebook, hashtags and selfies aren’t going anywhere — meaning social media marketing is essential to grow your online web presence.

But we get it — if you’ve been avoiding social media marketing it’s not because you don’t think it’s effective or popular. Rather, it’s because you simply don’t have another minute in your day.

But no more excuses! Here are some of our favorite apps to amp up your social strategy and save you time.

Beatrix

We normally recommend Hootsuite and buffer as our favorite social media scheduling dashboards. But, I recently discovered Beatrix, an app that offers both social media content curation and scheduling. What makes Beatrix unique is it’s “Magic” button. The “Magic” button automatically pulls content from social networks that your audience is interested in. This way, you can find articles and posts that are relevant to your school and industry, and automatically share them without looking for them.


The web-based app also offers a social media marketing calendar for organization, analytics to track your posts, and an integration with Dropbox that allows you to store your own “stock images” to use with posts, rather than uploading a new one every time.

It starts with a 14-day free trial and then is only $10 per month.

Canva

Canva is like a personal graphic designer stored right in your bookmarks! Canva makes designing for social media simple. Offering templates optimized for social media, Canva makes it possible to create visually appealing posts for your Facebook and Twitter feeds without Photoshop.


Simply select the social network you’d like to post to, and then drag and drop images and text to design it! The online app offers thousands of fonts and stock images to choose from, as well as the ability to upload your own.

Canva is free to use, although some layouts, fonts and backgrounds need to be purchased for an additional cost.

FollowerWonk

How do your followers behave on twitter? Use FollowerWonk to find out. FollowerWonk is a cool (and free!) app that allows you to analyze the behaviors of your users, from the times they tweet to their geographic location.


This is extremely helpful for maximizing the effectiveness of your tweets because you’ll be able to create a social media marketing strategy around when your followers are active, rather than when you think they are.

PhotoSync

The football coach is snapping photos on his iPhone at the game, your students are sharing photos on Instagram, and you’re trying to organize those professional photos taken at the end of year events. Centralize and organize your photos to share on social using PhotoSync.


This simple app is free to use and allows you to sync photos from multiple devices and folders for sharing. You’ll save time, and have a greater pool of photos to choose from for posting.

Social Media Mash Up

Social media mash up pages extend the life of your social posts and provide a centralized “home base” for sharing content. You can embed them on your website or in a private portal to provide an inside look to life at your school via your social networks.


Because this design treatment compiles all your most recent posts into an attractive mash-up, this highly visual and fun approach to social is helpful if you can’t find the time to post frequently.

Further Reading: A New Home for Social Media [With Examples!]


Do you have any tools that save you time and improve your social media strategy? We want to know! Leave us a comment.

Posted by mia.major in Best Practices, Marketing / Comm, Social Media on Wednesday May 27
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3 Reasons Responsive Design Is Here to Stay

When it comes to web design, it isn’t always easy to tell what’s a design “trend” and what’s a design “fad.” So for schools with small budgets or penny-pinching decision-makers, convincing them that your website is in dire need of an update because it “looks outdated” isn’t quite enough.

They’re skeptical about spending money on something that could be outdated tomorrow, so they choose to stick with what’s familiar rather than risk investing in a fad.

But responsive design isn’t a fad. It’s a trend — and it's here to stay.

Responsive Design

What’s the difference? Simply put, a fad is something that has no reason to stay. It’s something that looks cool or was introduced by an industry leader, and now everyone wants it. I like to call this the Hollywood Effect because it’s similar to when we see the rich and famous buy something or do something; and we want it too — with no reasoning behind it. But just as quickly as a fad rises to the top in popularity, it’s quickly pushed to the side by something even cooler and more modern.

A trend on the other hand is grounded in hard facts and does not appear just because. It’s based on years of data, the way humans act and behave, and it’s proven effectiveness. In short: because it’s rooted so deeply in our culture, it’s something that’s here to stay.

Need some help convincing your decision makers who still feel skeptical? Here are our top three reasons that we think prove responsive design is in fact a trend that is here to stay.

#1: Google continues to favor responsive design.

Google is completely controlling the digital marketing landscape. Processing more than 3.5 billion searches per day worldwide, it completely dominates its industry.

So when Google talks, we tend to listen.

Just over a month ago, Google released its latest algorithm update that, in short, favors responsive design in mobile search results. What’s that mean for your school? A responsive design is what Google expects — and if your website isn’t responsive, you could potentially experience a drop in search results no matter how amazing your SEO strategy is.

Further reading: Mobilegeddon: What You Really Need to Know

#2: There’s been a steady increase in mobile traffic for years.

Called “the biggest shift since the Internet began,” in January of 2014, mobile Internet usage exceeded desktop Internet usage, and there are no signs that will be changing any time soon.

Comscore Graph

Due to its convenience — and even increasing affordability — mobile Internet usage is the most popular way to search. And today, Finalsite schools receive as much as 50% of their website traffic from mobile devices.

Resource: Why Responsive? [Infographic]

#3: Your social media strategy depends on it.

Because Facebook’s popularity is still on the rise, and Google recently partnered with Twitter, your social media strategy is becoming an even more important piece of your digital marketing strategy. (If that was even possible.)

Plain and simple, it’s where your users are. And if you want to be able to target and communicate with prospective, current and past families, you need to be on social.

So what does this have to do with responsive design, exactly? An exponential amount of time spent on social media is spent on mobile apps — not on a desktop. So if you’re not responsive, but still putting effort into a social media campaign, you’re (kind of) wasting your time.

If what you post that links back to a website that can’t be view from a smartphone or tablet, you’re not going to get your website any more traffic, your admissions office any more inquiries, or your annual fund any more donations.

Further Reading: Social Media’s Growing Influence on Search


We want to know!

Is there a particular industry trend that led your school to go responsive? Leave us a comment or tweet about it using #FinalsiteChat.

Mastering The Art of Persuasion for a New Website

Persuasion: it comes in an array of shapes and sizes. It can be as simple as convincing your co-workers that you should go to Whole Foods for lunch instead of Panera. Or, it can be as complex as persuading them that their current workflow, system, or way they do things is completely broken. And that isn’t easy. It often faces resistance, excuses and even denial.

What we’re doing is currently fine. We don’t have time for to build a new website. Our reputation is good enough, why do we need a new website? Don’t you think responsive design is just another fad?

Does any of that familiar? If it does, you don’t need to back down. If you think your school’s website or web strategy needs a re-vamp, you’re most likely correct.

Here’s how you can put those excuses to rest, get your colleagues on your side, and get your school the website it deserves.

Start Things Off Yourself

I think we need a new website isn’t really casual lunch conversation. Saying you’re your school needs a new website could be stating the obvious, and may even look like you’re trying to hand off the task.

People are more likely to be persuaded if a task has already been started. Gather your research on cost, vendors and the industry before you even hint that you need a new website. When they can see the road ahead of them has already been paved, they’ll feel more confident going along for the journey.

Gather Your Facts

Costs, latest trends, what your competitors are up to: don’t walk in empty handed. You need to be prepared to answer every rebuttal or excuse with undeniable, cold, hard facts.

Gather information on vendor costs and implementation timelines, new standards, the prevalence of responsive design and mobile devices — and more importantly, whom your competitors are using for a vendor, and how they’re tackling with the ever-changing standards of digital marketing.

Show Exactly What’s Wrong With Your Website

Are animated gifs, bad grammar and photos from 1997 plaguing your conversions? 

Okay — your website most likely isn’t that bad. But you need to take the time to identify exactly what isn’t working. If you’ve been using a tool like Google Analytics, you’ll be able to show which pages have high bounce rates, which pages are top entry points, and which are top exit points. Identifying exactly what makes someone leave your site rather than stay is enough to get your decision makers thinking — maybe we do need a change.

You can also run your website through tools like Google’s Mobile-Friendly Test and Am I Responsive to prove that your current site isn’t meeting industry standards.

And if you don’t feel like that’s enough, ask your colleagues to perform a native or local search for “private schools near me.” Literally seeing that your school may not even be on page 1 will raise some eyebrows. 

Identify and Address their Pain Points

If you only had enough time to do follow one of these tactics, pick this one! 

Whether it’s limited money, time or resources, every decision maker you work with — no matter how invincible they seem — has something that makes them tick.

Find out exactly what annoyances your colleagues face on a day-to-day basis, and explain in detail how the website you want to implement can help solve them.

For example, if your Director of Admissions is complaining about a decrease in online inquiries, point out that it may be due to the fact that the inquiry form is hard to find. Then, share how a new website would make that inquiry form easier to find.

Similarly, your Director of IT might be having trouble maintaining consistent data between your SIS and your website. It’s tedious and never seems to be 100% accurate no matter how hard he or she tries.

To identify the pain points specific to your colleagues, conduct a brief online survey. Ask what obstacles they face on a daily basis and tasks they wish they had more time for. That way, you’ll be able to directly target those wants and needs in your act of persuading.

Putting it All Together

When it comes to budget, there isn’t always one person making a decision. It can be five, six, even a dozen individuals who have a say in how money is allocated each year for website updates and digital strategy.

Once you have your colleagues on your side, it’s time to put that persuasion to good use and go before your Head of School or the Board.

Using a similar strategy, create a formal presentation with your colleagues by your side that identifies what’s wrong with your website, industry trends and standards, how a redesign can address their pain points, your desired plan of action and even, predicted ROI.

Posted by mia.major in Best Practices on Wednesday May 20 at 10:40AM
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0th Impression Management

The 0th (zero-ith) impression: new words for new threats. We’re coining this one.

Finalsite Manager of Consulting Services Red Abbott recently dropped the term or 0th impression in casual conversation. Completely puzzled by the phrase, I asked for clarification and he replied, “Google any school and you’ll see what I’m talking about.”

Challenge accepted.

After spending my lunch break Googling school websites from all over the country I could see clearly what the 0th impression means: when coming from search, your website is no longer your first digital impression.

Hold the phone — I’m kidding, right? Nope. 

We spend so many hours perfecting taglines and calls to action on our homepage to capture a user’s attention in seven seconds or less that we completely forget how users are actually getting there. And most commonly, it’s through search. 

What’s the big deal? In short, search engines like Google are getting more and more sophisticated. And as they become more sophisticated, they pull a greater amount of information from your website directly into search results — meaning searchers are learning about your school before they even get a chance to visit your website.

The 0th impression: the impression before the intended first impression.

Within search results, searchers can see your social media pages, display ads, directories, ratings, rankings, bad press and so much more — just on Page 1. So if they see something they don’t like? They may never even visit your website — yikes!

Charlotte Country Day Search

Lucky for you, a lot of what searches see in page results are in your control. Here are some steps to ensure that your 0th impression doesn’t hinder your ability to make a killer first impression.

Take control of your Google and Wikipedia pages.

When you search for a school by name, a box appears on the right side of the search results, showing photos, a map, school attributes, and even social media links. That’s part of the Google Knowledge Graph. You have some control over what is displayed here using Google and Wikipedia. 

As much as teachers tell students to never use Wikipedia for research papers, Google actually loves to use the online encyclopedia to quickly generate a slew of information about your school in search engine results. That means you need to take ownership of your Wikipedia page to ensure it is complete with accurate and consistent information. 

Similarly, you need to take ownership of your Google MyBusiness Page and create a Google+ page. Entering the same information in your Google+ and MyBusiness Pages that appears on your website and on Wikipedia will ensure your school pops up more frequently in generic, unbranded searches like “private schools near me.” Plus, the only way to completely take control of the image displayed at the top of your Knowledge Graph box is by having a Google+ page.

Specify Your Social Pages.

A recent update to Google search that was enabled last November allows you to directly link to your social networks from the search result page. Take advantage of this to allow quick access to your social networks that showcase your school’s personality.

Want to enable your social profiles in search? Follow these instructions on the Google Developer blog.

Use Display Ads.

45% of users cannot tell the difference between organic results and sponsored results — and that’s good for you! Use pay-per-click advertising to ensure that information and pages you want to show up for certain keyword searches do.

Get Constituents to Write You Reviews.

People are quick to write a review about slow service at a restaurant or a rude hotel manager, but when it comes to saying something positive about their child’s school? Not as common. Asking constituents to write positive reviews for your school on Google will hint that your school offers a five-star experience, before they visit your website.

Next Steps

Feeling a little overwhelmed? A great plate to start is GYBO.com — Get Your Business Online. The website tells you exactly what you can do to improve your presence in Google search engine results and how to fix it.

If you know you’ll never have time to tackle that yourself, find out how our team of internet marketing experts help.

Learn More

Posted by mia.major in Search Engine Secrets on Monday May 18
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Last-Minute Annual Fund Final Pushes

It’s almost summer and we can see it everywhere we look. The weather is getting warmer. It’s staying lighter, later. Stands in your baseball field are filled. Students are getting a little more restless — and the teachers are too. (And here in Connecticut, its finally iced coffee season.)

And while the school year winds down, for those of you in advancement your job is far from over. As the days get longer, the attention spans of your audience gets shorter — and it gets harder and harder to drive Annual Fund donations. If you’re still a distance away from reaching your goal, don’t feel discouraged. There’s still plenty of time and ideas to meet or exceed your goal.

Here are some of our favorite ideas.

Host a Crowdfunding Day

Just a couple of weeks ago, The Ursuline School in New Rochelle, New York hosted a successful crowdfunding day. Asking for donations of $24 for 24 hours on April 24, The Ursuline School made giving affordable and exciting. Then using the hashtag #CROWDS4TUS, the advancement team encouraged their community to share the event across social networks to generate buzz.

The result? By end of the day on April 24, they had received 920 donations, totaling $85,312.

Although the crowdfunding campaign officially ended, the buzz kept it going. Over the past couple of weeks, more donations have trickled in, with the most recent total of $87,698 from 964 gifts.

Presentation High School in California and Archbishop Murphy High School in Washington have hosted similar events in the past couple of years to yield equally as outstanding results.

Success Stories and Testimonials

Wallets get tighter every year. And at the end of the school year after families have already supported numerous causes and paid tuition, asking for something extra isn’t easy, and can sometimes feel a little awkward. Plus, in May you’re also competing with prom expenses and even summer vacations — so what can be so convincing that your annual fund campaign is worth the investment?

The vote goes to student, faculty and alumni testimonials. Showing donors exactly where their money is going and who it’s helping can be enough to tip on-the-fence donors over the edge. For example, Berkshire School showcases a notable alumna on their Annual Fund page and The Out-of-Door Academy uses the ever-popular “Out-of-Door through the eyes of Thor” videos.

Craft Targeted Messaging in Private Portals

Targeted messaging can make or break alumni engagement. Asking for the right kinds of donations at the right time to the right audience is the key to success — and there’s no better way to do so than by using private online communities, or Portals.

Yes, it’s even better than email.

For most schools who use Portals, they’re the home base for constituents. They can check homework, log into other apps, send messages, and more. So while they’re not necessarily guaranteed to open you’re email, they are in a way, guaranteed to check their Portal. Using a PagePop notification or custom header image, announce how far you are from your Annual Fund goal, and link to an online form.

The in-your-face notification reminds community members who have been meaning to donate, but needed a little nudge. Plus, online forms make online giving simple for donors.

And since Portals are typically already divided by constituent group — alumni, parents, students and faculty — you can craft targeted messaging for each group.


Looking for more ways to meet your Annual Fund goals?

Download our whitepaper, Friendraising for Fundraising, which includes 10 more strategies for increasing donor engagement!

Download

Posted by mia.major in Best Practices, Advancement on Friday May 15
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The Oakridge School’s “I Am Oakridge” Video Series is a Home Run

It’s predicted that video traffic will make up 55% of all consumer traffic by the end of 2016. And as it takes precedence in the world of content marketing, schools like The Oakridge School in Arlington, Texas are capitalizing on the opportunity to get ahead of the curve and share their school’s community and culture online through video.

“We are constantly complimented on the inclusive, neighborhood feeling of our community. We needed a way to communicate that feeling to those who haven’t had an opportunity to step on campus,” said Mike Cobb, Director of Admissions at Oakridge.

“Since the school has a great neighborhood feel that you can’t convey through text and photos, we looked to video,” added Jason Kern, Oakridge’s Director of Technology.

Inspired by the work of Ben Grey who profiles his faculty in 59-second videos for his public school district in Chicago, Oakridge turned to its community of talented students to produce one-minute videos for an inside look at the Oakridge experience.

Each one of the videos features a particular faculty member at Oakridge. “The faculty were chosen to demonstrate a cross-section of different academic areas, as well as a variety of different divisions,” said Jason. “Our goal was to truly show the entire gamete of an Oakridge education from age three through 12th grade."

But it wasn’t just about faculty interviews and profiles. “Our goal was to talk more about the people, not about what they do. We wanted to humanize them, so the students who produced the videos were asked to find out something about the faculty outside of the classroom to show that they are not just great teachers, but great people.”

Here's an example of one of their faculty videos: 

The campaign will continue with three seniors as they near graduation. “Each senior will represent their excellence in one of the three As —Academics, Arts and Athletics — which serve as a core part of our mission,” said Jason.

“It’s all about sharing your school’s story,” said Jason.

“For Oakridge, one of those stories is that even if you excel in one area, you’re going to get the experience of all three. You can be a star athlete for example, but you can still be a scholar, and when you leave Oakridge, you’re going to be well rounded — and the stories in these videos make that clear.”

They have been rolling out one video per week the last two months and have already received 4,000 views, as well as some great responses from prospective families. According to Mike, one prospective mother said, “it really gave me great insight to the type of people my daughter would get to interact with at Oakridge and really helped inspire me visit the campus.”

For Oakridge, the video series serves two purposes: showcase the dynamic faculty and demonstrate the talents of the students. The videos are entirely produced by the Digital Production class at the school who have a professional videographer spend time with them in addition to their teacher.

“It’s our way of saying, here are the people that work here, and here is some of the great work that’s being produced at our school,” said Jason.

“I think the videos really show not only the talents of our students, but give us a more personal connection to potential families.”

Even with great video production and interview skills behind them, the students had one major obstacle in producing these videos: their short length. “A big point was to make them short,” he added.

“We wanted to keep them all around one minute. It’s not easy to tell a story in less than a minute, but it’s vital to teach students the importance of being concise in a world of over saturation.”

The videos also serve a purpose for internal marketing as well. “It’s a great way to share what’s going on at our school to current families,” said Jason.

“To be able to show what our Upper School students are producing is a fantastic demonstration of what our kids can do and what opportunities they have. It also gives a glimpse of the great faculty their children will get an opportunity to work with during their academic career.”

The videos, which are housed on their site, are also posted on Facebook, Twitter, and YouTube. “Were hitting them in multiple arenas, but the big piece is getting our constituents to share them as well,” said Jason.

“The best people to sell the school are the ones that are already in it, and if we give our internal people great experiences, then they will share them with their friends as well,” said Jason.

Good content. Relatable content. Shareable content. That sounds like a recipe for success to us!

Posted by mia.major in Success Stories, Marketing / Comm on Wednesday May 13
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